Skip to main content

What Influencers Won't Tell You About Online Work

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

About six years ago, I found myself in a rather precarious position and was short on options. I had a Masters in a degree that's kind of useless without a Ph.D, had just quit my miserable job, and had undiagnosed ADHD. Like many other people before and after me, I decided to turn to online work to try and make a living.

For the most part, I've been lucky. But recently I have been reminded of the less than pleasant reality of online work when my long-term contract and my biggest source of income ended, literally overnight with no warning. One day, I signed into my account to begin work only to find out my account was disabled and that was it.

What does anyone do when they've essentially been fired? Job search, of course. I don't need to tell you what that is like. And Instagram has been... rather unhelpful. Maybe it is because I liked a post and Instagram's algorithm decided I needed to see a dozen more of that exact same post in slightly different variations. Or maybe it's because search engines sell your information. Either way, during my daily scroll through Instagram I have increasingly come across various posts from so-called influencers about making money online. As someone who has tried many of the websites peddled by these people, I can tell you most of the claims in these posts are extremely exaggerated or outright ridiculous.

I am about to give you an honest, objective opinion on what it is really like to work online to help you both decide if it is the right path for you and to help you not waste your time on influenced exaggerations. However, before we continue, I would like to point out that I'm not necessarily talking about actual remote jobs, like customer service jobs, or so-called skilled jobs like a graphic designer selling their skills on Fiverr. This article is more concerned with micro tasks, pay per projects, search engine evaluator, data entry, side hustles and other similar jobs or schemes touted by influencers.

Photo by Yan Krukov, CC0, via Pexels

Photo by Yan Krukov, CC0, via Pexels

The True Nature of Online Work

Zero Job Security and Variable Income

Before deciding if online work is the right path for you, you must understand that the work is very precarious. There is no job security. Your income will fluctuate with the availability of jobs, and most of these jobs or websites alone will not replace a full-time income.

You must also understand that many of these types of income sources are temporary. If you look at many of the data entry jobs, transcription jobs, and other jobs on Flexjobs or other websites, they're temporary, contract, or part-time. So even if you are lucky enough to become employed, it's only temporary and you will have to start the process all over again once the contract ends. It's essentially a never ending job search.

To put this in perspective, I will give you a personal example from my experience. I worked as a contract employee for the same employer for approximately four years. Essentially, I worked for an employer that worked on behalf of a client. I was originally contracted for 20 hours a week. (This is standard. You won't find many contract jobs that offer more than this.) Then one day, the client decided they didn't want to employ us for this amount anymore and our contract was cut to 15 hours a week. That might not seem like much, but that's 5 hours of guaranteed income that's essentially lost overnight at the whim of the client, and you are left scrambling to make up the deficit. Then one day I lost the contract and there was no warning.

Your income will also vary depending on the availability of projects. For example, if you decide to do what I call pay per project side jobs, such as transcription, or Usertesting, or micro tasks, the amount of income you can make depends on the number of jobs available. The number of jobs fluctuates heavily from day-to-day, so some days you may not be able to find any jobs at all.

Another challenge is, as these jobs become more popular and well-known, it becomes harder and harder to obtain these jobs. You'll be lucky if you do.

Downtime on Your Own Time

Another major downside of being a contractor of freelancer is you don't get paid for down time. When you are employed, depending on the employer and how awful they are or not, unproductive time spent at work is still paid. For example, if you go to the bathroom, you're still being paid for that time. If you sit and stare at your computer for 20 minutes, you're getting paid for that time. You may be at work for 8 hours, but not all of that time is spent being productive. When you're self-employed, you only get paid for the productive work. And quite frankly, it's pretty much impossible to get 8 hours of productive work done in a day and still maintain a healthy level of necessary activities like eat, sleep, hygiene, and exercise.

The Challenges of Being Self-Employed

Being a contract worker, a freelancer, a side hustler, etc, also means you are essentially self-employed, which comes with a whole set of challenges. A self-employed person is in charge of their own taxes, meaning your online employer does not set aside taxes from your paycheck every week, or month, or however often you are paid. You are responsible for making a payment to the IRS every four months based on whatever estimate you got from an online calculator. If you don't, you may be surprised with a huge bill come tax season.

As a self-employed individual, you get no benefits from your employer. That means no health care, no 401K, nothing. If you want a retirement fund, you must set one up for yourself. Healthcare, you must purchase yourself. Thankfully, Democrats passed a bill which set up the Healthcare Marketplace, which makes it much easier to get insurance if you are self-employed. Unfortunately, Republicans are actively trying to destroy this marketplace because they profit off the misfortune of others, so who knows how long the marketplace will last. Even with the marketplace, health insurance can still be quite expensive.

Microtasks Are a Waste of Time

Now that I've brought to your attention the difficulties of online work, let's get into some of the specific websites and jobs I've seen promoted by many influencers.

The first one I want to talk about is micro tasks. Essentially, on certain websites an individual gets paid to work small tasks that may take a few seconds or a few minutes to complete. These types of tasks include taking surveys, data extraction, simple data entry tasks, etc. As I have seen many influencers promoting in their posts, you can find these types of jobs at Amazon's Mturk, Appen's Micro Tasks, PaidEra, and SproutGigs. I would also include survey sites like Inbox Dollars in this category. I am sure there are others I probably don't know about.

All of these websites are an absolute waste of time.

Why do I say this? Almost all of the tasks offered on these websites you are paid in literal pennies to complete the task. Some of the tasks actually do pay just one cent per the completion of one task. The only way to make any potential money this way is if you can complete hundreds of tasks very quickly. It's simply not possible. Not only is it difficult to find hundreds of tasks available to complete, but you will never be able to go fast enough to make a decent amount an hour. At most, you might make a few dollars an hour unless you are very lucky or very persistent. It's not worth your time or effort.

Scroll to Continue

Surveys are also generally a huge waste of time. First, the pay is atrocious. Most survey options you'll see will offer a payment of 20 cents for a 20 minute survey. That's ridiculous. To even get paid, you have to qualify for the survey. You could attempt to qualify for dozens of surveys, spend a lot of time doing it, and get zero money. So not only do you not get paid enough, you waste a lot of unpaid time finding a survey you qualify for.

I will, say, however, that on very rare occasions I have found tasks that have not been a major waste of time on MTurk. If you are desperate, it is something you might make a tiny bit of money from.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich, CC0, via Pexels

Photo by Anna Tarazevich, CC0, via Pexels

Pay Per Project Jobs

Pay per project jobs includes things like transcriptions jobs on Scribie, TranscribeMe, and the many other similar websites. It also includes data collection projects, which includes things like getting paid to upload a video of something specific, or recording an audio file for a company trying to improve their speech recognition program. Pay per project jobs generally don't take more than a couple of hours to a day to finish.

You could potentially make okay money doing these types of jobs, and it has definitely gotten better in recent years. When I first started transcribing about six years ago, the pay was quite low. But since losing my job I've gotten back into it, and if you can type fast enough and claim enough decent jobs, the pay isn't too bad.

However, many of the claims by influencers and bloggers alike about transcription work are outlandish. I saw one article where the person said you could make up to $1700 a month as a transcriptionist on websites like those above (so not as someone employed by a direct employer to transcribe). Maybe you could, but not consistently. I saw another article that said you could make $15 to $75 an hour. You might be able to make $15 an hour on these websites, but $75 is an outrageous lie.

With this type of work your income varies wildly, because your income is dependent on the number of jobs available. In my experience, you'll see a list of jobs and you can pick one you like. The amount of jobs available fluctuates significantly. Sometimes there'll be a 100 jobs to choose from, and sometimes there won't be any. Whether or not you find any work you can complete is based on luck and how quickly you pick a job. Most of these websites the jobs are very competitive and decent jobs will disappear in a fraction of a second before you can claim it.

Also, what a lot of these influencers and bloggers fail to mentions is that there is a lot of unpaid work that goes along with it. All the time you take finding a job to claim is unpaid. Or say that you start a job and realize you can't finish it for whatever reason, doesn't matter if you've completed 99% of the project or how much work you've put into it, you don't get paid for any of it unless you finish. It can be very disheartening.

Contracting and Data Entry Jobs

When I say contracting jobs, I am generally talking about jobs such as search engine evaluator for companies like Telus, moderating sites and forums for companies like Modsquad, data entry, etc. These are tough fields to find a job in, because there are a very limited amount of jobs and there are many people that want them. The chances of you getting one are very low. You'd have to be very lucky, or very persistent. They pay okay, but not extravagant, and they're only part time jobs where you are a contract employee, meaning you're self employed. You can see above for the challenges of being self-employed.

Also, there is A LOT of unpaid work that goes along with these types of jobs, as well. Many of these jobs force you to take a qualification test or require training. All of this is on your own time and unpaid. Between qualifying and training expect to spend probably 8 to 16 hours. The worst part? After all this unpaid work, you may not even get the job.

Let's talk about data entry while we're at it. A lot of influencers make it seem like it's so easy to get a remote data entry job online. It's not. You have to have skills, you have to have a decent resume, you generally have to have experience, and you need a bit of luck. So don't think, oh, I can get a data entry job easy. You really can't. It's not that simple.

Photo by Ron Lach, CC0, via Pexels

Photo by Ron Lach, CC0, via Pexels

UserTesting

There aren't too many sites like UserTesting, which is why it got its own category, and if there are any, I don't know them. On UserTesting, you get paid to review a website or app or something of a similar nature. The pay is pretty decent per task, but is it worth it? I don't know.

I saw a wild claim from an influencer that said you could make $50 a day on UserTesting. This is beyond ridiculous. You might make $50 a month, if you're very lucky. Why is that? Because each test requires you to meet certain criteria, and for the most part you will not qualify as the criteria tends to be very, very specific. You will go days without qualifying for a test. I mean, by all means, check it out, but you're not going to make any sort of significant cash. All the influencers saying you can make $30 an hour or $50 a day are exaggerating. Maybe it's possible to make $30 an hour, and maybe it's possible to make $50 a day, but that will not happen on a regular or even uncommon basis.

However, they do have some moderated sessions that if you don't mind talking live with the customer on camera then you could make $30 or $60 in a day ... if you qualify.

Job TypePayAvailabilityWorth It?

Micro Tasks (ex: MTurk, PaidEra, InboxDollars)

Pennies per Task

Medium

No

Pay Per Project (ex: transcription)

$10 to $15 per hour (maybe less, rarely more)

Medium

Potentially

Ustertesting

$10 per test

Low

Not really

Contracting (ex: search engine evaluator, moderating forums)

$10 to $15 per hour

Low

Potentially

Read or Talk for $750 a day?!?

Recently, I've seen a lot of influencers making posts about earning $750 in just a few hours and all you have to do is read or record your voice This is wildly misleading. Most of these jobs that the influencers are talking about include recording audiobooks. This is generally considered skilled work, and the author is looking for an experienced voice actor to make their book into audio. Just an average, everyday internet work is never going to get these kinds of jobs. However, if you are voice actor then by all means go for it.

Side Hustles: What it really takes to succeed in dropshipping

Last, but not least, we have side hustles. I have personally never tried what are called side-hustles. A side hustle would include something like starting your own business, selling the products of your hobby, mowing lawns, print on demand, and dropshipping. In this article, I am only going to focus on dropshipping, because the other side hustles mentioned above are generally legitimate.

By far the most touted side hustle by influencers, dropshipping is essentially selling a product that you don't physically have in stock yourself. There are plenty of websites out there where you can buy a product in bulk, sell the product from your online store, and whoever you bought the product from will ship the product to your customer. This is different from print on demand where there is no inventory and your product is simply sold on a per customer basis. In the case of dropshipping, you have purchased a certain amount of product, you just never actually see the product yourself.

I wouldn't necessarily say dropshipping is a scam. Certain people can make money from it. The Tiktoker, Cadenboof, has tested more than 26 different side hustles on his channel from mowing lawns to salvaging used golfballs, and he claimed dropshipping was one of the most profitable side hustles he tried.

However, dropshipping is not as easy as many influencers make it out to be. It's not a one and done, and it's not passive income. In order to be successful, you essentially have to run a small business. As Cadenboof said, "The keys to success in dropshipping is treating it like a real business and building a nice brand around your products."

First, you must pick a product to sell. With the amount of websites like Dropship available to pick products from, that seems like an easy task. However, it must be a product you know you can sell and you must have the capital upfront to purchase the product. You must also come to terms with the fact that you may loose all the capital you put into it because there is no guarantee that you will be successful in selling it.

Second, you have to create an online store. Again, with the amount of available websites out there like Shopify, Wix, etc, setting up an online storefront will not be your hardest task. But it will take time and effort to create a customer friendly website and this is all unpaid work if you don't succeed.

Third, you have to build a brand and advertise. People aren't going to buy whatever you are selling when they can just go to their local store and buy it for cheaper, or if they can buy it from their favorite brand, etc. They need a reason to buy your product. This will be the hardest part of dropshipping: convincing people your product is worth buying when, generally speaking, it really isn't. Most people are not going to be very successful at this, me included, which is why I have never tried it. Also, advertising costs money, and if you don't sell the product then that money comes out of your own pocket.

So can you make money from dropshipping? Certainly. Will you? Who knows. That's entirely up to how much work you put into it, how well you build your brand and convince people to buy your product, and a lot of other factors that are out of your control. Even if one does see success, it will will most likely come with a lot of failure, as well.

If you think you have what it takes, then by all means go ahead and try it. But don't go into it thinking it'll be easy and be prepared to loose any money you put into it.

Exceptions

There are obvious exceptions where you can make money online. If you have a skill, like creating websites, SEO, writing, graphic design, etc, you might be able to sell your skills at a decent price on websites like Fiverr, etc.

Other exceptions would be remote jobs from a direct employer. I'm talking jobs that offer benefits, and you interview for. These kinds of jobs are generally skilled jobs that a general online worker wouldn't qualify for. Though there are generally plenty of remote customer service jobs if you don't mind that kind of work. Even then, with remote jobs you must be careful and figure out if the job is legitimate or not as there are plenty of scams out there.


Conclusion: Not Worth It?

Is it possible to make money online mostly from what is considered 'unskilled' work or side jobs? Yes.

Are you going to make as much as influencers and bloggers claim you can make? Absolutely not.

Are you going to make a decent living entirely from this type of work? Again, probably not.

Working from home is a dream. It's convenient, there's no commute, you never have to leave your home if you don't want to. Unfortunately, you trade a steady, reliable income for it. And the reality is, it's actually not easy to make money online.

Even if you're thinking, well, I'm not looking for a full-time income, I'm just looking for extra cash, most of these side jobs and websites still aren't worth it. You don't make enough money for the work put in, or you spend so much time doing it that it takes just as much time as a full-time job that it simply isn't worth it unless you are desperate.

But if you're persistent, or really lucky, or really good at convincing people to buy a product, then by all means try it. Just do not expect easy money, or quick cash, or a decent income any time soon.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Amber

Related Articles